Summit ESC and Peg’s Foundation Partner to Bring Proactive Prevention for Behavioral and Mental Health

Summit ESC and Peg’s Foundation are proud to announce their partnership to develop a county-wide system of Behavioral Health and Wellness Coordinators (BHWC) for proactive prevention and early intervention for middle school and high school students in Summit County. Coventry Local Schools and Tallmadge City Schools will be the first districts to pilot this program, set to take place during the 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 school years.

The partnership aims to address the disconnect between schools and mental health and wellness services in Summit County. By equipping local school districts with the necessary awareness, staffing, and training, the program intends to bridge the gap in mental health service delivery, ensuring students receive the support they need.

Jeff Ferguson, Summit ESC Director of Administrative Services, shares his enthusiasm for the partnership, stating, "We are incredibly excited about this collaboration with Peg's Foundation, as it will empower our schools to proactively address the mental health and wellness needs of our students. This program promises to bring forth transformative change, ultimately fostering a more supportive and thriving environment for our students to learn and grow through the proactive prevention of crises."

Peg’s Foundation, a leading advocate for behavioral health and wellness locally, state-wide, and nationally, approached Summit ESC to improve mental health outcomes for middle and high school students in Summit County. Peg’s is providing funding for these Behavioral Health and Wellness Coordinators (BHWC) for the first two years. The program will be framed around a model developed by the School-Based Center of Excellence at Miami University, backed by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).

Rick Kellar, President and CEO of Peg’s Foundation envisions a brighter future for students in Summit County, stating, “Our ultimate goal is early proactive prevention and intervention, by addressing the behavioral and mental health needs that our students are experiencing – we are going to see improved outcomes in regard to attendance and better performance academically.” 

Over the last year, Kristin Fazio (Director of Student Services and Wellness) and Jeff Ferguson (Director of Administrative Services) have convened with 24 organizations, including Summit Education Initiative (SEI), ADM Board, school districts, social services, and behavioral health partners, to develop strategies that enhance resource accessibility for Summit County students.

With the new program, Coventry and Tallmadge schools will soon have a Student Assistance Program (SAP), which includes BHWCs developing and maintaining ongoing district-wide student assistance programs with referral processes providing services to at-risk youth and their families.

The partnership aims to replicate this program across Summit County after the pilot phase.

For more information, please contact Jeff Ferguson, Summit ESC Director of Administrative Services – [email protected], or Victoria Romanda, Chief of Staff, Peg’s Foundation - [email protected].

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